List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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this capture of M. Fouquet, I have not employed my guards, on which
account M. de Gesvres will be furious."

"Your majesty does not employ your guards," said the captain, a little
humiliated, "because you mistrust M. de Gesvres, that is all."

"That is to say, monsieur, that I have more confidence in you."

"I know that very well, sire! and it is of no use to make so much of it."

"It is only for the sake of arriving at this, monsieur, that if, from
this moment, it should happen that by any chance whatever M. Fouquet
should escape - such chances have been, monsieur - "

"Oh! very often, sire; but for others, not for me."

"And why not with you?"

"Because I, sire, have, for an instant, wished to save M. Fouquet."

The king started.  "Because," continued the captain, "I had then a right
to do so, having guessed your majesty's plan, without you having spoken
to me of it, and that I took an interest in M. Fouquet.  Now, was I not
at liberty to show my interest in this man?"

"In truth, monsieur, you do not reassure me with regard to your services."

"If I had saved him then, I should have been perfectly innocent; I will
say more, I should have done well, for M. Fouquet is not a bad man.  But
he was not willing; his destiny prevailed; he let the hour of liberty
slip by.  So much the worse!  Now I have orders, I will obey those
orders, and M. Fouquet you may consider as a man arrested.  He is at the
castle of Angers, this very M. Fouquet."

"Oh! you have not got him yet, captain."

"That concerns me; every one to his trade, sire; only, once more,
reflect!  Do you seriously give me orders to arrest M. Fouquet, sire?"

"Yes, a thousand times, yes!"

"In writing, sire, then."

"Here is the order."

D'Artagnan read it, bowed to the king, and left the room.  From the
height of the terrace he perceived Gourville, who went by with a joyous
air towards the lodgings of M. Fouquet.

Chapter XL:
The White Horse and the Black.

"That is rather surprising," said D'Artagnan; "Gourville running about
the streets so gayly, when he is almost certain that M. Fouquet is in
danger; when it is almost equally certain that it was Gourville who
warned M. Fouquet just now by the note which was torn into a thousand
pieces upon the terrace, and given to the winds by monsieur le
surintendant.  Gourville is rubbing his hands; that is because he has
done something clever.  Whence comes M. Gourville?  Gourville is coming
from the Rue aux Herbes.  Whither does the Rue aux Herbes lead?"  And
D'Artagnan followed, along the tops of the houses of Nantes, dominated by
the castle, the line traced by the streets, as he would have done upon a
topographical plan; only, instead of the dead, flat paper, the living
chart rose in relief with the cries, the movements, and the shadows of
men and things.  Beyond the inclosure of the city, the great verdant
plains stretched out, bordering the Loire, and appeared to run towards
the pink horizon, which was cut by the azure of the waters and the dark
green of the marshes.  Immediately outside the gates of Nantes two white
roads were seen diverging like separate fingers of a gigantic hand.
D'Artagnan, who had taken in all the panorama at a glance by crossing the
terrace, was led by the line of the Rue aux Herbes to the mouth of one of
those roads which took its rise under the gates of Nantes.  One step
more, and he was about to descend the stairs, take his trellised
carriage, and go towards the lodgings of M. Fouquet.  But chance decreed,
at the moment of plunging into the staircase, that he was attracted by a
moving point then gaining ground upon that road.

"What is that?" said the musketeer to himself; "a horse galloping, - a
runaway horse, no doubt.  What a rate he is going at!"  The moving point
became detached from the road, and entered into the fields.  "A white
horse," continued the captain, who had just observed the color thrown
luminously against the dark ground, "and he is mounted; it must be some
boy whose horse is thirsty and has run away with him."

These reflections, rapid as lightning, simultaneous with visual
perception, D'Artagnan had already forgotten when he descended the first
steps of the staircase.  Some morsels of paper were spread over the
stairs, and shone out white against the dirty stones.  "Eh! eh!" said
the captain to himself, "here are some of the fragments of the note torn
by M. Fouquet.  Poor man! he has given his secret to the wind; the wind
will have no more to do with it, and brings it back to the king.
Decidedly, Fouquet, you play with misfortune! the game is not a fair one,
- fortune is against you.  The star of Louis XIV. obscures yours; the
adder is stronger and more cunning than the squirrel."  D'Artagnan picked
up one of these morsels of paper as he descended.  "Gourville's pretty
little hand!" cried he, whilst examining one of the fragments of the
note; "I was not mistaken."  And he read the word "horse."  "Stop!" said
he; and he examined another, upon which there was not a letter traced.
Upon a third he read the word "white;" "white horse," repeated he, like a
child that is spelling.  "Ah, _mordioux!_" cried the suspicious spirit,
"a white horse!"  And, like that grain of powder which, burning, dilates
into ten thousand times its volume, D'Artagnan, enlightened by ideas and
suspicions, rapidly reascended the stairs towards the terrace.  The white
horse was still galloping in the direction of the Loire, at the extremity
of which, melting into the vapors of the water, a little sail appeared,
wave-balanced like a water-butterfly.  "Oh!" cried the musketeer, "only a
man who wants to fly would go at that pace across plowed lands; there is
but one Fouquet, a financier, to ride thus in open day upon a white
horse; there is no one but the lord of Belle-Isle who would make his
escape towards the sea, while there are such thick forests on land, and
there is but one D'Artagnan in the world to catch M. Fouquet, who has
half an hour's start, and who will have gained his boat within an hour."
This being said, the musketeer gave orders that the carriage with the
iron trellis should be taken immediately to a thicket situated just
outside the city.  He selected his best horse, jumped upon his back,
galloped along the Rue aux Herbes, taking, not the road Fouquet had
taken, but the bank itself of the Loire, certain that he should gain ten
minutes upon the total distance, and, at the intersection of the two
lines, come up with the fugitive, who could have no suspicion of being
pursued in that direction.  In the rapidity of the pursuit, and with the
impatience of the avenger, animating himself as in war, D'Artagnan, so
mild, so kind towards Fouquet, was surprised to find himself become
ferocious - almost sanguinary.  For a long time he galloped without
catching sight of the white horse.  His rage assumed fury, he doubted
himself, - he suspected that Fouquet had buried himself in some
subterranean road, or that he had changed the white horse for one of
those famous black ones, as swift as the wind, which D'Artagnan, at Saint-
Mande, had so frequently admired and envied for their vigor and their

At such moments, when the wind cut his eyes so as to make the tears
spring from them, when the saddle had become burning hot, when the galled
and spurred horse reared with pain, and threw behind him a shower of dust
and stones, D'Artagnan, raising himself in his stirrups, and seeing
nothing on the waters, nothing beneath the trees, looked up into the air
like a madman.  He was losing his senses.  In the paroxysms of eagerness
he dreamt of aerial ways, - the discovery of following century; he called
to his mind Daedalus and the vast wings that had saved him from the
prisons of Crete.  A hoarse sigh broke from his lips, as he repeated,
devoured by the fear of ridicule, "I!  I! duped by a Gourville!  I!  They
will say that I am growing old, - they will say I have received a million
to allow Fouquet to escape!"  And he again dug his spurs into the sides
of his horse: he had ridden astonishingly fast.  Suddenly, at the
extremity of some open pasture-ground, behind the hedges, he saw a white
form which showed itself, disappeared, and at last remained distinctly
visible against the rising ground.  D'Artagnan's heart leaped with joy.
He wiped the streaming sweat from his brow, relaxed the tension of his
knees, - by which the horse breathed more freely, - and, gathering up his
reins, moderated the speed of the vigorous animal, his active accomplice
on this man-hunt.  He had then time to study the direction of the road,
and his position with regard to Fouquet.  The superintendent had
completely winded his horse by crossing the soft ground.  He felt the
necessity of gaining a firmer footing, and turned towards the road by the
shortest secant line.  D'Artagnan, on his part, had nothing to do but to
ride straight on, concealed by the sloping shore; so that he would cut
his quarry off the road when he came up with him.  Then the real race
would begin, - then the struggle would be in earnest.

D'Artagnan gave his horse good breathing-time.  He observed that the
superintendent had relaxed into a trot, which was to say, he, too, was
favoring his horse.  But both of them were too much pressed for time to
allow them to continue long at that pace.  The white horse sprang off
like an arrow the moment his feet touched firm ground.  D'Artagnan
dropped his head, and his black horse broke into a gallop.  Both followed
the same route; the quadruple echoes of this new race-course were
confounded.  Fouquet had not yet perceived D'Artagnan.  But on issuing
from the slope, a single echo struck the air; it was that of the steps
of D'Artagnan's horse, which rolled along like thunder.  Fouquet turned
round, and saw behind him, within a hundred paces, his enemy bent over
the neck of his horse.  There could be no doubt - the shining baldrick,
the red cassock - it was a musketeer.  Fouquet slackened his hand
likewise, and the white horse placed twenty feet more between his
adversary and himself.

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